In fact, the workflow is so rapid that Licciardi is even embracing competition settling into the area. “We don’t have a problem with that, because we can’t handle what’s coming [as it is],” he says.
Licciardi notes that his firm, a Bathroom & Kitchen Buying Group member, also received substantial help from the BKBG. “The BKBG called to see what they could do for us,” he notes. “About two weeks later, we received a $5,000 check from them. So we are going to give that to employees who got flooded so they can use it.”
While optimistic about the future, Licciardi admits that the last eight months have taken its toll on his staff.
“My salespeople [have been] working 12-hour days, seven days a week and it’s starting to wear on them,” he says, adding that there are some 300 customer contact sheets still sitting on his desk. ”We just finished October, and we are just now into the people that came in during November.”
He estimates that the Metairie area will take another six to nine months to return to its pre-Katrina condition.
But despite all of this, he considers himself fortunate. “The business wasn’t flooded, although we did get some water in here, and my house didn’t get flooded either,” he notes.
Looking forward, he offers: “My hope is that we all stay healthy, and that we can maintain control and continue to provide the quality service that we were known for.”
For Leslie Lomont-Relayson and Christine Hillery of Cabinets by Design, the key to the rebuilding process is remaining available.
Lomont-Relayson offers: “There are cabinet dealers in the city that close down a day or so during the week, as a way to catch up. We chose not to do that.”
She continues: “I think that when people [start shopping for cabinets], invariably they find themselves here because the doors are open.”
Hillery interjects: “I jokingly tell people that we’ll be happy to put their name in one of the piles. It keeps things lighthearted, because people are frustrated and it brings a smile to their faces. What else can you do?”
According to Lomont-Relayson, “Monique [Poche’ Bennett, CKD and owner of Cabinets by Design] has over 20 years’ worth of kitchens in the city. I’ve got more like 10-12 years’ worth. So, you’re dealing with people you did work for years ago, and you know the kind of things they might like.”
She adds: “There are [people] who are taking [the destruction] as an opportunity to redo everything, but most of them aren’t looking to customize or personalize – they want something.”
The firm is able to do so much, the pair notes, because the office, remarkably, was undamaged by the storm. Hillery explains: “We were so lucky here. When the hurricane hit, we all assumed that we had been looted, because that’s all you heard on the news. We figured it would be a wreck and all of the appliances would be missing, but nothing happened.”
Lomont-Relayson’s home only received minor exterior wind damage, but Hillery was not so fortunate: “We were doing a big renovation [at my house], and I had just put my new kitchen cabinets in. And my roof broke right over them! My roof gave way over the three worst places possible: my brand new kitchen, my only working bathroom and my clothes closet.”
Lomont-Relayson adds: “We’re trying to arrange people and coordinate things for work, so [ironically] our own houses just sit there [undone].”
But, when posed with the idea of moving from New Orleans, the pair doesn’t flinch. “Other places are great to visit, but this is home,” says Lomont-Relayson.
Besides, Lomont-Relayson believes her firm’s services are needed throughout New Orleans – even if it means working ’round the clock. “The number of jobs – and the number of quotes that we have filed – is enormous.”
Hillery points out, however: “Our main problem is we haven’t changed our strategy, post-Katrina. We still feel like we should bend over backwards for every person who walks through the door – and a lot of people are not doing that.”
While this can be difficult, Lomont-Relayson says: “We don’t want to change what we do. It’s what got us here.”